Friday, 15 June 2007

Flickr blocked continued

The annoyance and mystery continues...

Now I can't even view the Flickr forum.

So I went to download this Firefox add-on which everyone has been talking about. Grr... I am annoyed that I have to download yet another thing to clog up my Hard drive. Apart from that, it doesn't even work on my version of Firefox so now I have to download a later version which is a whopping 47Mb. Great. Just Effin' Great.

So thanks to Stupid China's Great Firewall I now have something (a second browser) to chew through my RAM and my HD.

On another related (or not?) note, I went to visit my florist's website and noticed it was down. I assumed she had taken it down but nope, apparently it's working fine so I went to view it another way and yep, it's there. So something is suss, very suss. Why the heck would China have any reason to block a florist's website????????!!!

PS the add on works great! I can now view all the photos. Yippee!! I'm so glad there are smart nerds in this world to circumvent things that evil 'goody two shoes' put in place. hehehe.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

China: Internet censorship from HELL! Flickr blocked.

I am soooo angry words cannot express how mighty pissed off I am to find one of my favourite websites, is now blocked in China too.

Last night I accidently typed in without realising my mistake and saw that some cybersquatter is trying to sell it, and rejected the latest offer of US$600,000. What an idiot.

Meanwhile, after I realised my mistake and went to the correct site, strangely, none of the images were displaying. None At All. Not my own, none in a search, NONE. I immediately assumed it was my computer or ISP being slow or something and just left it.... try again this morning, to find that it was still like that. I got suss. I got very, very suss. I went to my trusty Shanghai sites to find that it had gotten blocked by China. Interesting, it is also blocked in parts of the Middle East. If you do a google search you can read more about it.


As if it isn't bad enough that every time I find something through google for a wikipedia article I have to circumvent their blocking by going to first, and as if it isn't bad enough that I even have to go through another site to access this blog, my own blog, (and any other blogger blog, as well as livejournal blogs), but now I can't even view my own photos on Flicker!


There are always ways around this though. It's just a pain having to use them but better than nothing.

Someone has already invented a Firefox plug-in to view flickr here.

Why I like Flickr

* I love photography. I love looking at the beautiful, awe-inspiring photos from people's everyday lives, holidays, events, everything. I have only a handful of pictures up there but always planned to put more up when I got my next computer upgrade.
* I love that I can search for random things and find a RECENT picture of it. If I go through google images I have to search through tonnes of crap to find anything half decent of what I'm looking for. Some examples of things I searched for... when I was planning our wedding I looked for bouquet, cake, invitation, dress, veil, etc ideas. When I am holiday planning I liked to search for hotels as I can actually see what the room looks like inside for real, not some fake glossy brochure type outdated photo that is on the hotel's website. I like to look for places to go to, or things to do. I love I can search for almost any keyword and turn up a bunch of really interesting photos on that topic.

I just realised I don't know if that plug-in works for Mac or not. If it doesn't I'm going to cry.. booo hooo... :(

PS - if you are interested (which I doubt you would be unless you are in China), you can read more here on the flickr website for updates.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Reading Chinese characters...

My parents made my sister and I go to Chinese Saturday/Sunday school for many years. It was useful but kinda useless at the same time. I went for 10 years between the ages of 6-16. I learnt many many characters but do not remember them because I never use Chinese on a daily basis.

It is said that you need to know approximately 3000 characters to read a Chinese newspaper. This is a fact I've known for a long time. Knowing this - I doubt I'll ever be able to read a newspaper! (unless I study like crazy and my brain explodes because I can't learn so much and remember so much at my ripe ol' age of 30 ;) ).

If I make an educated guess I think I can read about 500 characters. To put this into perspective, I cannot even read a child's book. I cannot read every word in a book made for a 5-6 year old. How sad is that?

Listening -
I can understand between 50-90% of a Chinese Mandarin conversation or a movie. If it's just two people on the street talking I can understand about 90%. If it's a news report, only about 50% because it depends largely on the topic they are talking about and the words they use.

Speaking -
I can speak Mandarin OK, that is, I can get by without any major problems. But since my English vocabulary is quite good (I think?) and I probably do know a few thousand words, it can become extremely frustrating when the word I want to say in Chinese doesn't come out. I just don't know what it is and I have to use many other words to describe that thing, feeling, whatever.

Reading -
My reading has improved greatly since coming to Shanghai. I've always noticed this when I would visit my relatives in Taiwan. If you are exposed to the characters on a daily basis you are more likely to remember them! I think I've learnt a handful of new characters I didn't know before just from seeing them time and time again (street names are a good one). However, I still long for the day I can read a newspaper, book or magazine. I am trying to learn to read signs and magazines, and amazingly can make out sentences even if I can only read about 30-80% of the characters in each sentence.

This is the hardest one of all since it requires a really good memory. Not only do you need to know how to write the character you have to do it in the correct stroke order. Yes, Chinese calligraphy is an art. It is also very useful to know the stroke order, otherwise you can't use a Chinese dictionary!

I am a very fast reader (in English). I skim read everything and can get the meaning by reading every 2nd line or every 4th word. I don't need to read every single word to get the meaning. Sometimes this gets me into trouble because I skip important words but on the whole I think I read faster than most people. I cannot look at a sign or whatever in English and not read it. I see it, I read it. However, in Chinese I can see characters and even if I know them, I don't necessarily read them. I have to actually stop and try to read it. It's weird. I asked my father who is Chinese and moved to Australia in his 30s if this was true of him but the other way around and he said it was.

He sees Chinese text and reads it and although his English is pretty good for a migrant he actually has to make an effort to read English. Although he could read something like the newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald it would take him a really long time to read one page whereas it would take me only a few minutes. He has been living in Australia for about 25 years. Just goes to show you no matter how hard to try to learn a 2nd language it's always easier going back to your first! (although technically Chinese was my first, haha).

Another aspect of this reading Chinese characters thing is that my parents are from Taiwan and I went to a Chinese school learning from Taiwanese-style textbooks. The characters we learnt were the traditional characters, ones that were 'invented' thousands of years ago.

Over the past few decades, complicated words were gradually simplified to make them easier to learn, write and remember. This is good but is also bad in that the original meaning of the word is lost (since Chinese is a pictorial language).

Taiwan and Hong Kong still use traditional characters whereas China and Singapore use the simplified characters. Luckily I learnt traditional first so it's easier to learn simplified. I learnt Simplified one time in Chinese school when I was 12 (when they taught a different method) and also when I was in university too.

I just found this interesting article

UN to drop traditional Chinese characters: report
The other day at the meeting Zhou Youguang spoke at, a PRC official announced that beginning in 2008 the United Nations will cease issuing any material in traditional Chinese characters. Only versions in “simplified” characters will be released, he said.


On another note, not being able to read gives me an idea of of what it would be like to be illiterate. I think it would suck. :( In Chinese if you can't read the character you can't read the word. In Europe I felt illiterate too, but at least I could read the signs (even if I didn't know what they meant!)

Our ayi (housekeeper, cleaner, cook, 'domestic slave' ;) ) is illiterate. It hasn't stopped her getting a job I guess! It doesn't seem to affect her much either. I guess if it's something you never had (the ability to read/write in this case) then you don't really miss it.

Although I can read those measly 500 characters I still feel quite illiterate a lot of the time, and it sux. It sux because I look like a local, people think I'm a local but I'm not a local. So when I desperately need to read something (like a menu) I have to explain to them that I'm a foreigner and grew up in Australia and that's why I can't read Chinese..yadda yadda yadda... I wish I didn't have to give the whole long spiel, but I do! Hmm...